Monday, April 27, 2015

School at the Beach and a Pirate Birthday

For science this week we learned about light. When I taught this lesson four years ago, my class got really confused. I was not going to let that happen this time. We talked about how cameras work, because it has everything to do with light.

I had to use a multimedia presentation to help me explain, and I was pretty miffed that I couldn't get my hands on any UV paper to help my explanation. I HAVE UV paper, but it's in my storage in Cardston. Whatever, anyway, its kind of funny that kids find it hard to wrap their minds around cameras with film that needs to be processed. Yes it's a digital age.

We also played with lenses and one of my nephews burned his name into a paper plate with a lens.

This week we've had some beautiful weather, and I knew that if I waited until school was over, we would never get to the beach, so we stuck our school in the stroller, and headed off. The boys had some trouble concentrating, but I think it was a good experience over all, and I think we will be repeating it on sunny days.

Maxwell has saved up money that he's gotten from reading his books and bought an aquarium for the crabs that they are going to rotate capture and release. Little crabs.

Maxwell has decided that he wanted to record his reading. He loves nothing more than to listen to audio books, so he wanted to make his own. He records it and than he listens to it. It's super cute, and he doesn't want me around, because I make too much noise, so I get cleaning or whatever done, and I KNOW he's getting his reading in! Plus plus!!!

Here's a quick sample:

Also, it was Daniel's birthday and we had a pirate party for him. He's SIX!!! Yes, he will be a homeschooler for real next year. (Alberta doesn't count kindergarten as homeschooling.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Shadows and More Guests

I love Cardston. I love that our friends from Cardston are such good friends that they come and visit us. We had more guests this week, although they did not stay at our house. We went to China town again.

For science this week we started to learn about light. Of course, shadows are part of learning about light, so we had a shadow puppet show.

We continued to do our usual math. I had always thought that Rightstart was lacking in drilling, and that they didn't teach doubles. For Maxwell I taught and drilled doubles before Rightstart mentioned them at all.

For Hyrum I hadn't got around to it. Then, last week, Rightstart had Hyrum adding doubles, and he could do it! Without any memorization and without any drilling, he could see an abacus in his head, and that was enough.

Not only that, but he can do doubles when it's part of a two digit number!!!

See that 67+7? or the 66+6? yep Hyrum does it like this- (67=60+5+2) + (7=5+2) = 60+10+4=74. Not sure if you got that, but Hyrum TOTALLY gets that. He's very comfortable with it in fact, and I'm delighted.

Maxwell is missing our guests but before they left he made his own uno cards out of cardstock and duct tape, and he's been begging every member of the family to play with him ever since.

And yes, we are still doing less school than we usually do, but you know what? I HAVE FIVE BOYS!!! I have been more happy and at ease with life for the past few days than in a long time.

I spent some of that extra time making movies to help my kids. I am very proud of my first ever animated movie!

When I do "one on one" with my boys, really it's one-on-three. Check it out:

That's how I look 90% of the time. Abraham on top of our work (I NEVER leave him unattended- don't worry.) And William on my lap, playing with all the manipulatives. Yep.

But hey, they're cute. Especially my feather-haired sweetie.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Science of sound, and Guests

I am committed to writing in this blog every week again. So here it goes.

Science. I've started my science class again. We are studying sound. My first week was a bit crazy. It was at my house, and no one was watching the babies, and Dustin was on a business call, and we had an excited new group of kids, and well....we didn't get through all the material I wanted to teach.

I'm pretty sure that everyone came away knowing that sound was vibrations though, and that was a start.

The next week went a lot more smoothly. We went to my sister in laws. We continued to learn about sound waves including how sound waves move through air, water, and solids. I think the most impressive experiment was when you take a metal hanger and put string to the ends and put the string around your fingers and stick your fingers in your ears and then knock the hanger. It sounds like a church bell.

My teenage nephew, Dailin, helped us make "oobleck" that we made move with sound. It's so fun that he has a natural love for science and is our guest helper.

And last week was our concluding sound lesson. As part of that, we made our own symphony. Before we made our own instruments, we studied real instruments.

We made our symphony out of cups of rice for maracas, straws for pan flutes, straws for woodwinds, and boxes with rubber bands for the strings instruments. It was quite the loud not-so-harmonious group.

As for history..ummm...well, let me tell you a story. A stressed out homeschool mom was talking to her husband. She was saying how she didn't want to be overwhelmed. He asked her what was one thing that she could not do so she wouldn't be overwhelmed. She said history, but than said how much she loved history and all the projects.

He than said "Honestly, listening to 'Story of the World' a couple of times is going to be just as effective or more effective than all those crafts." The housewife was both annoyed at him and felt relived by him.

SO! We have been listening to "Story of the World." :)  I'm not saying we won't be doing the odd craft here and there and researching with library books. I'm not saying I won't ever be in full force again. But I have two babies, and a bit of post partum crazy brain, and stress about teaching reading, and well---I need a break.

We are still learning the history timeline song for the portion of time that we are supposed to be studying this year. That counts for something, Right?

And of course we natural do crafts.

Maxwell continues with his obsession over dragons, and has improved his drawings:

And we made easter eggs covered in marbled nail polish.

Now on to a math update.

Hyrum is doing great. I was so happy the other day when he got a rather complex concept right rather quickly. I Talked to Dustin and said "Yes he had trouble with the English name of numbers, but that doesn't mean he doesn't understand concepts. Look how he gasped the concept of the number nine borrowing one unit from the ones place. This make the ones go down and the tens go up." And Dustin said "This is what I'm talking about. You need to focus on these things. You need to record the successes. Remember this." Well-this is me remembering this.

I especially like the 38+9 answer where he even added the arrows, which proves he understands the concept. And I took this a week ago. Now he's doing problems like 39+8 and understands that you use the same logic. LOVE IT!

Maxwell is doing great too. Have I ever told you how much he loves the game "corners?" It's a game that we played to learn how to add and subtract 5s, 10s, and 15s and also what numbers make up 5, 10, and 15. This is a really easy concept, and Maxwell doesn't really need the review, but he begs to play it every now and then as a treat.

Now Hyrum is learning these concepts, and we all play.

Daniel is learning how to tell time. Hyrum is too in fact. I feel that in order for Hyrum to memorize where the 15 minute, the 30 minute and the 45 minutes are, I need to make him a movie. Daniel's not to that point yet. He's just learning the hours and half hours.

Really though, this week has been basically our spring break. We've had guests staying with us. Guests with 6 kids who have never been to the island before. We've been busy having fun. Math was still accomplished. Maxwell reading his books has been done....most days, but other than than, it's been all hands on adventuring.

I feel like I need to brag just a little so that if any of my friends read this, that they will realize how awesome it would be to visit us too, and COME AND VISIT!!!

So the first place we went to was Fisherman's Wharf where we looked at the quaint house boats and fed the wild otters and SEALS (Dustin and I had a bet to see who was right-I thought they were sea lions, he thought they were seals and the looser had to lick a raw fish--I licked the fish)

Then we went to China Town and ate duck and bought YUMMY candy.

Then we explored the inner harbour.

The following days we went to an AWESOME beach and went beach combing.

And went to a waterfall

We also went to a gorgeous park with gardens, ponds, and petting zoos.

And then we went on hikes by a river with stunning views of nature in it's grand beauty.

Yah, and that's just a piece of what is available here. Paradise people. PARADISE. Come on, you know you miss us.

Having our guests here, I've taken a break from Barton reading. We needed it. BTW I've looked into what's available here in Victoria. There are a couple tutors. Guess which program they use?  Yep. Barton.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bad bad dyslexic day

It was a bad bad day. Actually it was a bad bad day yesterday that spilled onto today.

I know it's been a long time since I last posted, but I've faithfully been doing school. In fact I wrote a post once, but as I went to publish it, it disappeared. I have lots to post, but this will not be the usual post. This will be me wallowing in self depreciation. So skip this one if you wish.

Maxwell and Hyrum have dyslexia. I haven't really posted too much about this because I've wanted to be able to talk about dyslexia once we were a success story. The kind I read that are all sparkly and bright. "My child couldn't read anything, but we did such and such, and now he's reading so much I have to take books away from him so he will go play!!" "My child was two grades below grade level, but now he corrects his peer's spelling!"

I want SO BAD to be a success story. But I'm not. At least I'm not yet.

I'm still going through the sludge. Dreaming of the day that I will see Maxwell with a chapter book that he picked up on his own account. Devouring it because he loves it. Then I take a photo. I post it on this blog, and I say how wonderful it is that he's reading. How all those countless hours are worth it. And how now I know Hyrum will be okay too. All I have to do is persevere and he will have his own photo too.

But that hasn't happened yet. Instead it's just me crying over my laptop. I'm pretty sure you don't want a photo of that.

Maxwell can't read.

Hyrum can't read.

Maxwell is ten. TEN and can't read. Hyrum will be eight in a few months. EIGHT and he can't read.

Daniel is 5 and if he has dyslexia, it's very mild.

But William; At 2 years old I can already see the signs as clear as anything. He will be just as dyslexic as his two oldest brothers.

I have a lot of self doubts.

If I had sent them to public school, they would have been saturated in the learning-to-read world where professionals were constantly hammering things in their head. Then they would come home for the night and we would have done homework one-on-one.

Was that what I should have done?

Now it's too late. They are so behind that public school would devour them.

Why did it take me so long to start taking things seriously with Maxwell? If I had done Barton sooner would it have helped?

Many told me to wait (mostly of the Thomas Jefferson Education mindset) and said that Maxwell would be ready later, and then it would be EASY. So am I not being patient enough? Should I wait? Have I been forcing it down his throat so much that he's spewing it out?

Lots of the people that told me to wait now have 12 and 13 year olds that still can't read. I looked at this and say "See? Waiting didn't work." to make myself feel better, but not waiting seems like it's not working either. So really, I'm just judging others so I can falsely elevate myself.

I've tutored other kids, but not long enough to make any kind of difference at all.

I'm tutoring a new kid. He's 12. I want so bad for it to be a success so I can know I'm a sufficient tutor.

Then I can say "See, HE got it. My kids will too, it will just take time and patience."

The Barton system says that level four should take 3-5 months. It's been seven months and I do not see the end in sight. EVERYDAY. everyday we are diligent.

I feel like I must be doing it all wrong.

Or maybe the system is all wrong-despite EVERYONE and their dog saying how it's the best tutoring system out there for dyslexics.

And you know what? I don't have the official stamp of dyslexia on anything. No professional has told me  that my kids have dyslexia. For all know they might say "No, your kids are pretty normal, but you suck as a teacher."

I want someone to tell me what is going on, but no one is there.

No one seems to be able to help me.

I'm all alone.

I asked for them to be "coded" but a year ago a lady came and said "yep, Maxwell is reading below grade level." That's it.

So it was me that read all the books, watched all the documentaries, put myself through the tutor training, and surfed the internet until my eyes crossed. Now I say they have dyslexia, but I have no official right to do so.

I went to the elementary school and the principle pretty much told me there's nothing they can do.

There are no tutors in Cardston, and I'm sure there's something here in Victoria, but we'll only be here a couple more months.

Yesterday I saw how pointless it was to go further in Maxwell's level four book. He wasn't getting it. I sat there. Knowing I had ploughed through. Telling myself he was succeeding, but now it was beyond pretending. I needed to go back. Reteach things that were embedded wrong. Knowing that to un-teach something is harder than teaching it. Knowing I was already taking twice as many months as I should to get through the book.

Where should we go back? To the beginning of the book.

I cried.

Can I do this? Do I even have a choice?

Then I taught Hyrum. I've been teaching him the level two book. All. Year. Long. It should take about one or two months to finish the level two book. I thought it was time for me to give him the post test. He failed. He didn't fail miserably, but the same concepts we've been working on again and again are the same ones that he got wrong. The same concepts we work on EVERY SINGLE STINKING DAY were the ones he got wrong.

Let me explain where my kids are having trouble.

Maxwell can't tell when a vowels says its long or short sound. We haven't even tried silent "e"s or vowel combinations yet. I'm talking about when it's an open syllable like "pro" it's long and if it's closed like "prom" it's short.

I can not glue this concept to his brain. He can spell it. In fact, his spelling seems to be better than his reading. He understands the idea of the concept. I can ask him all the rules as this idea gets used in more complex scenarios, and he can give me all the right answers. He knows how it works. He just can not execute it.

I watch him as he tries to read a word like romantic. Ro-man-tic. long vowel, short vowel, short vowel. He knows it. If I ask him to tell me if the vowel is long or short he gets frustrated because he KNOWS. But then when he reads "romantic" on the page without help, I see the concentration in his brow, his cheeks almost twitching as his mouth silently goes through different ways this word might be pronounced. The uncertainty. The frustration. And finally he slowly says "Raw-man-tic."

He sees my face. He knows he did it wrong. He quickly says "romantic."

We were on lesson ten where we were learning the "banana rule." Now we were learning how long "a"s are often "uh." It was just too much. The same letter could be "Ay" "ah" and "uh?" He intellectually knew WHEN it said each, but to put it into practice? Nope.

Then Hyrum. "b"s and "d"s. The "e" says eh and the "I" says ih. Everyday we go over this. I've decided to make a little movie to try to help him. I have to learn how to make that movie and I'll post it here for your enjoyment. Hyrum seems to learn with movies.

I just had a thought! Hyrum also learns through hand symbols. Right now we are learning the history timeline song, and Hyrum is actually memorizing it. We are learning hand symbols to help memorize it, and I think that's why Hyrum is having his success.

Dustin says I'm "asking myself the wrong questions." I SHOULD be asking myself "what worked today?" "What was a good thing that happened." "What are my past success stories?" "How have they progressed?"

But I'm just not perky and need to wallow.....okay let me answer the right questions.

Maxwell read his primary talk on Sunday. I reworded it in order to make it words he knows how to read.

He knows all his sight words-largely because of the sight word cards I have made.

Maxwell is reading a 25 page chapter book without pictures every single day. (I'm bribing him of course.) These chapter books are specially made to be exactly at his reading level, but who cares, right? He hardly has any help from me, because he can DO IT!

It's hard to hide my fears and doubts, but his self-esteem seems be in tact still. We have been reading "The Dyslexic Advantage" together and he knows that although his brain makes it so reading and spelling is difficult, he has every possibility of really succeeding in life. That the same brain functions that make it so reading is hard for him, are the same brain functions that will give him an edge in the work place.

He LOVES books. He is constantly listening to audio books and asking to be read to.

He is really excelling at every other subject. I went on the Westwind alternate school's fourth grade checklist for math. It says he needs to know how to find the area--he knows how to find the volume. It says he needs to multiply a two digit number with a one digit number---He can multiply a 3 or 4 digit number by a two digit number. Basically, he's already ahead of his grade, and the year's not over yet.

And Hyrum- I can see his progress in math so clearly (because I was so worried about particular things that are hardly any problem now.) He really is going to succeed because his brain works so differently.

Take today. He was adding something and the answer was 101. He wrote 100 1 and than said "oh yah, the 1 is hiding the 0" and wrote 101 but didn't really put any spaces, and said "look! 101 is the green lantern symbol!" I don't know if anyone out there appreciates this, but it seemed like it was right out of the "Dyslexic Advantage" book. The spacial comprehension of the place values. The interconnection of relationships between numeric symbols and superhero symbols.

The world needs people who see things differently.

I really want to get my certification in dyslexic tutoring as well as being a certified screener of dyslexia. I want something that says "She's not messing her kids up. She's doing it right."

Silly of me hu?